A fund to tackle the current challenges around testing for coronavirus also known as COVID-19 set up by 54gene, African genomics research services have reached $500,000 less than 24 hours of its launch on Thursday.
54gene opened the fund with a donation of $150,000 and within 24 hours an additional $350,000 was secured from partners including Union Bank.
The genomics research service plans to utilise the fund by increasing the COVID-19 testing capacity in Nigeria by up to 1,000 additional tests a day. To achieve this, the company will buy testing instruments and the required biosafety materials such as biosafety cabinets and personal protective equipment needed to keep frontline healthcare workers safe.
“With the Nigeria COVID-19 Testing Fund, we are working in sync with the NCDC to make Nigeria’s public health an absolute priority during this global pandemic, which has left thousands dead or fighting for their lives,” Abasi Ene-Obong, CEO 54gene said in a statement. “We are extremely ambitious in our mission to expand the testing capacity for Nigeria and expect to increase the present rate by at least 10X in the coming weeks. In order to contain the spread of COVID-19, it is essential for us to know who has the disease, so we can put in place effective measures around quarantining confirmed cases.”
He said the rapid response of the partners was a clear exhibition that they understand the need for a multi-stakeholder, co-ordinated plan, that can be implemented almost immediately, as they work together as a community, side-by-side, to fight COVID-19 and protect the Nigerian population.
The partners are also in discussion with other Nigerian institutions, as 54gene hopes to raise enough to accelerate and expand to up to 5,000 tests per day. By intensifying the testing process for COVID-19, 54gene and funding partners plan to help minimize the spread of the infection, which has had a devastating effect on populations around the world. The team is also making a call for a COVID-19 workforce trained in using qPCR instruments and other molecular diagnostics methods, with the expectation that monies raised will be channelled towards recruiting these people for a period of time to support existing public laboratories.
“This is the kind of support we need. Identify a problem, run with it and include a sustainability plan in your solution. We are very grateful for this new partnership with 54gene at a critical point in our health security,” Chikwe Ihekweazu, Director General of NCDC, said.
Working in unison with the NCDC and other stakeholders, 54gene’s team expects to start deploying the fund within days, purchasing vital testing equipment, to be used by medical professionals. All equipment will be installed in public hospitals and laboratories across Nigeria, and will remain in situ once the current COVID-19 pandemic subsides, to be used by medical researchers and clinicians in case of any future outbreaks. In addition, there will also be significant investment in providing training and support to medical professionals/ personnel and volunteers working in coronavirus testing sites across the country, ensuring the mass roll out of effective and robust testing for tens of thousands more Nigerians.
To-date, the NCDC has recorded 51 confirmed cases of COVID-19, and the Nigerian Government has taken a number of important steps to control the spread of the disease, including imposing flight and travel restrictions, as well as producing stringent guidelines for mass gatherings and self-isolation.